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Old 04-30-2020, 10:30 AM
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The solution to pandemics: give everyone hazmat suits


Imagine the United States had 328 million hazmat suits (like they use to handle Ebola) stored in warehouses across the country. Enough for every man, woman, and child in the nation. In the event of an outbreak, each citizen is issued a hazmat suit to wear when they go out in public.

We wouldn't have to shut the economy down (with the exception of sit down restaurants), and in about a month the outbreak would be totally over.

What's wrong with this idea?

Last edited by Blalron; 04-30-2020 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 04-30-2020, 10:39 AM
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Have you ever worn one?
Try it, and then post back...
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Old 04-30-2020, 10:40 AM
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Well, you'll have to give me at least a dozen. There is seasonal wear, not to even mention accessorizing for various occasions and venues.
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Old 04-30-2020, 10:40 AM
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How much does it cost to keep 328 million hazmat suits warehoused across the country? These have to be hazmat suits that can be sterilized and reused or you have to estimate the cost of at least 30 times that number if they are disposable. And where are people supposed to remove the suits and clean them or dispose of them in such a way that no one is exposed to the virus that is on the exterior of them directly or indirectly? How much does it cost to distribute these hazmat suits to the population? Can you drive in a hazmat suit? How many people can do their job while wearing a hazmat suit? And how do you know the virus will be gone in just a month?

I expect the answers to those make the plan sound less practical, but otherwise it's a fine idea.
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Old 04-30-2020, 10:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blalron View Post
{...} in about a month the outbreak would be totally over.

What's wrong with this idea?
Are you're planning on living in the suit for an entire month?

CMC fnord!
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Old 04-30-2020, 10:43 AM
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How long would it take to size 320 million people?
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Old 04-30-2020, 11:01 AM
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We can't get people to wear face masks. How are you going to get them to wear an uncomfortable and unwieldy hazmat suit?
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Old 04-30-2020, 11:08 AM
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N95 masks would likely be nearly as efficient as a hazmat suits for the general public at a much lower cost and have much fewer logistical complications. Even though the suits would be better, it would be very difficult to fit everyone properly and get people to use them, which means the actual effectiveness would be lower. Plus, hazmat suits need to have an actual air handling system. You can't just breathe through a suit. They'll need a portable blower system with filtration, which will add to the cost and complexity.
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Old 04-30-2020, 11:09 AM
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People wouldn't wear them. Already we have people defiantly gathering on beaches despite stay-at-home orders, people willfully flouting all kinds of Covid rules and regulations. What makes you think they would wear a hazmat suit? At least half of them would refuse - either because they like their individualistic freedom, or because they think it looks too awful, or because it's just too uncomfortable (especially as Texas heat, for instance, soars into the 90s.)
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Old 04-30-2020, 11:54 AM
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People wouldn't wear them. Already we have people defiantly gathering on beaches despite stay-at-home orders, people willfully flouting all kinds of Covid rules and regulations. What makes you think they would wear a hazmat suit? At least half of them would refuse - either because they like their individualistic freedom, or because they think it looks too awful, or because it's just too uncomfortable (especially as Texas heat, for instance, soars into the 90s.)
Having to wear a hazmat suit outdoors in Houston between May and October would be a death sentence, unless they were air-conditioned.*

*which I'm sure could be accomplished for a nominal sum.
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Old 04-30-2020, 12:11 PM
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Plus, I've never used a hazmat suit, but I'm sure that it takes training to use one properly. I mean, heck, we can't even get people to wear face masks properly, and that's simple. Now toss in that someone wearing a hazmat suit improperly doesn't just mean that they're potentially spreading infection; it likely means that they're literally suffocating.

And, of course, where do you get hundreds of millions of these things? There's currently an extremely low demand for them, which means an extremely low number of suppliers. What companies are even capable of retooling to make them? What do those factories normally make instead, that they're not making when they're making hazmat suits? You'd probably end up with an even greater shutdown in the economy to make them, than you're getting now from people social distancing.
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Old 04-30-2020, 12:41 PM
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Plus, I've never used a hazmat suit, but I'm sure that it takes training to use one properly. I mean, heck, we can't even get people to wear face masks properly, and that's simple. Now toss in that someone wearing a hazmat suit improperly doesn't just mean that they're potentially spreading infection; it likely means that they're literally suffocating.
I've worn them. Actually wearing it doesn't require training so much as discipline. You have to be very aware of anything that could cut or tear it. Think about all the times you scrape or bump against something during a normal day. Things like getting in and out of cars would be tough.

What does require training (and a lot of other equipment) is getting them on and off. Suiting up is a long process involving a lot of tape, much of which is difficult or impossible to put on yourself.

Removing the suit and decontamination would be absolutely impossible for what the OP suggests. It's a strict process involving multiple stations for cleaning and/or removing specific pieces of the outfit. Depending on the suit type and protocols, just going to the bathroom can be an hour-long process of decontamination and re-suiting up.

Also, there must be absolute separation between contaminated and sterile environments. Is your home the only sterile place? That means no water, meals or bathroom breaks anywhere else. Are you decontaminating before every car ride, or does your car become a contaminated zone too? What activities can you perform wearing the suit and gloves? Typing on a keyboard is slow and difficult, and smart phones are completely out, so you're pretty much stuck doing anything productive at home anyway.
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Old 04-30-2020, 06:48 PM
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Coat everyone's naked bodies with clear vinyl and distribute Jetson-ish fishbowl helmets. Covering one's body to conceal the lack of full protection is a toss-em-to-the-crocodiles offence. Zero tolerance.
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Old 04-30-2020, 08:02 PM
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If we're going to solve this problem with things we don't have, why not just imagine we have 328 million doses of Covid19 vaccine?
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Old 05-01-2020, 09:07 AM
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During the Ebola crisis, hazmat suits were ~60 dollars (OCHA cite). We'll make it a nice even $100 for ease of math.
These 300M suits need to be warehoused and distributed. The cost of a warehouse is, after shelving is factored in, roughly $10/square foot. Assuming we can stack the suits 20-high and each takes a cubic foot, this cost is fairly low (50 cents per suit in essence). The storage will need a modest level of heating and staff, but I'll leave that out for now.

People need training for the suits. They will need certification. The suits need inspection. This is not dissimilar to the DMV, for the sake of this argument: the DMV certifies drivers are capable and the cars aren't wretched. California budgets $1.1 billion a year (2017 numbers) for 24M drivers and 30M cars. This is a cost of roughly $458 per citizen. Though I did also just cross out "cars" and scribbled in "suits" for my purposes.

Hard numbers I have at present: Suit cost+storage cost+training cost, 100+0.5+458, or ~$560 per unit. At 328 million people, this amounts to a cost of $183 billion dollars to initiate the project, and ~$150 billion yearly for upkeep. The costs are roughly equivalent to Medicare and Medicaid combined, and that's before all the extra factors are accounted for.


There's a lot of data missing in this back-of-the-napkin calculating. It doesn't account for the expected longevity of a suit, the equipment required to remove the suit (as per Troutman's post) and the consumables required (tape? Sanitizer? patch kits?) for regular use.

So to conclude my answer to the OP, the cost of this is enough that you'd get a lot of political pushback. That $150 trillion yearly could be spent on an awful lot of other things that could be used immediately, instead of on a once-in-living-memory event, things that would have an immediate effect on potential infections.

Last edited by Acierocolotl; 05-01-2020 at 09:09 AM. Reason: Typos. Egads.
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